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The Science of Social: Study finds statistically significant relationship between Facebook Likes and brand perception

The Science of Social: Study finds statistically significant relationship between Facebook Likes and brand perception
Friday November 15 2013

Results show number of fan page Likes influences people’s intentions to talk positively and spend money

A new pilot study by leading media and digital communications specialist Aegis Media reveals that Facebook Likes generate an unconscious and immediate effect on brand perception and human behaviour online. 
The independent study found a statistically significant relationship between the number of Likes respondents believed a brand to have, and how positively they answered questions relating to the brand. It also found that people who use Facebook frequently and for long periods, were more likely to be positively influenced overall.
In the trial, participants were asked to provide views on a fictitious brand based only on seeing variations of its Facebook page. Each page was identical, apart from the number of Likes, which ranged from just 12 to 9.2 million.
The findings suggest that Facebook Fans may add indirect value to a business in how they influence the intent of others to buy, talk about and recommend a brand. This phenomenon, known as social proof, is commonly understood offline, but this is the first time a study has been conducted to look at how unconscious cues affect human behaviour online.
However, the report also shows that while a positive trend is very steep as Likes increase from a Low to a Medium level (0-2000 Likes), it tails off significantly between Medium and High (10,000+ Likes). Further Likes above the tens of thousands do not seem to deliver the same proportionate level of increased positive perception. More study is required to confirm the exact thresholds for consumer herding effects and explore their meaning for brands.
The study of 600 participants is the first stage in Aegis Media’s research project designed to improve our understanding of human behaviour online and specifically the context of social media. Aegis Media’s group brands Equal, iProspect, Isobar and Vizeum, worked with academics from Cambridge University to conduct the experiment.
Rob Horler, Aegis Media UK CEO, said: “Social proof clearly has a role to play in changing perceptions, and our experiment is one first step in understanding this better. This was a pilot study; we’ll be looking to construct wider research in the near future to take a broader view of social media use and other factors that affect unconscious behaviour.”